TURIN — With a number of dollars and just the right dream, you, too, could own an elementary school in Lewis County.
The soon-to-be former Port Leyden and Glenfield elementary schools are now listed for sale with Good Morning Realty’s commercial division for $150,000 and $300,000, respectively.
At the end of this school year, the two schools will be decommissioned as determined by South Lewis Central School District voters when they approved the two closures in order to consolidate all schools onto the South Lewis campus in Turin. To do so, a $39 million capital project to build a new elementary school was approved by 130 votes, 732-602, in early November 2018, after a number of previous attempts at consolidation were voted down over the years.
“It’s bittersweet,” Superintendent Douglas Premo said at the time of the vote. “We recognize the value of the Port Leyden and Glenfield schools and all that they have meant to the communities, but we believe that this is truly what’s best for the kids.”
He also acknowledged that the potential for the buildings to be left empty has been a concern for community members and assured district taxpayers that the structures will remain in the school district’s budget and basic maintenance will continue until they are repurposed or sold.
In order to get a sense of what the communities would like to see in the buildings, the county’s planning department in July 2019 held a community forum in Port Leyden, according to Planning Director Casandra Buell, and the school district formed a committee consisting of people from the district, the planning department, the Tug Hill Commission and the local municipalities that house the schools.
Tapping into community hopes for the spaces was crucial for the committee. In September and October of that year, a survey circulated online and through the school district’s distribution system.
“We would have loved to have community meetings but then COVID happened so we couldn’t safely get community input that way. That’s when we put the online survey together. We got very good responses,” Tug Hill Commission Executive Director Katie Malinowski said.
There were more than 500 responses to the survey, evenly split between the two schools, Mrs. Malinowski said.
“I think that indicates people are interested and want their voices heard about potential uses,” Mrs. Malinowski said.
In addition to a diversity of ideas from respondents, the survey uncovered a number of potential financial impacts worrying the community from an increase in water and sewer rates, to tax implications if the building is put on the tax roll, property value reductions depending on how the buildings will be used and whether jobs will be created by the new occupants.
What was also made clear from the survey responses was that residents are very concerned the schools will go the way of the former Port Leyden Elementary School, which was empty and decaying for years.
“The big theme (in the responses) would be that the community would really like to see the buildings put to use and used for the community,” Mr. Premo said of the responses received, noting there were many wide-ranging ideas.
Suggestions that came up the most frequently were for senior housing of various kinds providing an elevator is installed; child day and after school care; office space; a recreation center; a different kind of school or education space; and affordable working class housing.
More creative ideas included a laser tag park, a maker’s space, a craft flea market and rentable entertainment spaces, including the gyms in the schools.
“It’s hard to make use of a facility that size,” Mr. Premo said. “Another possibility for the buildings could be multiple tenants, so it’s not a single-concept — maybe it’s a community center to one degree and offices also, whatever the idea or need be.”
All offers on the two buildings will be presented to the South Lewis Central School District Board of Education in its April 6 meeting for vetting. While getting a good price for the building is important, the biggest priority for the board is that whatever the next life of the building is, it’s a solid fit for the community.
“You just don’t know. You may get a bidding war or you may get a single offer. You just don’t know what you’re going to be faced with,” Mr. Premo said.
To learn more about the Port Leyden and Glenfield elementary school buildings, go to www.goodmorningrealty.com listings and click on the “commercial” option.